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Granite Quarry candidates focused on business, growth

GRANITE QUARRY — Business development weighs heavy on the minds of candidates for the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen.
Jake Fisher Jr. says the town’s biggest need is business growth, plain and simple.
“It has never grown — Granite Quarry has never grown for years,” Fisher says. “We need to get that going. That’s our most important thing right now.”
Incumbent Eloise Peeler agrees, and she still thinks the town could support a grocery store. Residents now have to travel to Salisbury or Rockwell for their grocery shopping.
Peeler says everybody wants new businesses, but she asks where they are going. What tracts will be made available, and what other businesses do residents want?
Arin Wilhelm says as a member of the board he would continue to follow the plan for business development aldermen already have created.
“That’s a key factor that has to be done,” he says.
Meanwhile, Wes Rhinier says he would support anything that can be done to loosen regulations for small businesses. A former owner of a Granite Quarry business, Safe and Sound Electronics, Rhinier says “there’s just way too much” of having to deal with municipal requirements and a high tax rate.
“There needs to be less of that,” he adds.
Mike Brinkley says Granite Quarry needs retail growth first; industrial growth, second.
“That seems to be the general consensus,” he says. “Everybody wants a grocery store, but we just got to do our homework, beat the bushes and find people. We can’t expect them to find us.”
Brinkley, Fisher, Peeler, Rhinier and Wilhelm are the five names on Granite Quarry’s municipal election ballot next Tuesday.
They are vying for two seats on the five-member Board of Aldermen. Those seats are currently held by Peeler and Brad Kluttz.
Though he missed the filing deadline to be on the ballot, Kluttz has said he will be a write-in candidate.
Gregory Philpot, a member of the town’s parks committee, also has been waging a write-in effort.
The two people elected next Tuesday will join Mary Ponds, Bill Feather and Jim LaFevers. At the new board’s first meeting in December, the five members will choose a mayor and mayor pro tem among themselves.
The sitting board voted recently to change the town charter and elect a mayor separately every two years, starting with the 2015 election.
Peeler and Rhinier agreed with that move. Wilhelm says he was neither for or against the change and supports a separate election for mayor as long as it doesn’t cost the town any extra money.
Wilhelm offered the board several possible options during the discussion leading up to a vote “because it looked as though they were at a stalemate,” he says.
Peeler favored the separate voting for mayor because “I’d rather for the citizens to decide than me,” she says.
Fisher was not happy with the decision, which will keep the town board’s composition at five members, including one person as mayor. He would have preferred a six-person board made up of five aldermen and a mayor.
“The mayor shouldn’t have to break a tie,” Fisher says.
Brinkley says he would have left the election process the way it is — staggered four-year terms for all five members. It has served the town well for a long time, Brinkley says.
In addition, he says, “I thought it was a good litmus test for the upcoming board to make a decision” on whom should be mayor and mayor pro tem.
Brinkley served on the Board of Aldermen from 1991-2001, and he has regularly attended monthly meetings for the past two years.
He says he wants to be part of a board that will work for growth, “and we need to pay attention to where we’re spending our money.” Brinkley says he doesn’t buy into the argument that Granite Quarry is too close to Salisbury to attract retail.
“It just means we have to try harder,” he says.
Brinkley probably has spent the most money among the candidates. He has a mailer going out today, listing some of the points he makes when he talks with voters personally.
He also has political signs and door hangers.
Granite Quarry has 1,833 registered voters.
As with Brinkley, Fisher is no stranger to town government. He served on the Board of Aldermen from 1999 to 2011, when he narrowly lost a re-election bid. Fisher also served three terms in the 1970s.
Fisher has put up some campaign yard signs, but he describes the election as low-key overall. There have been no candidate forums.
Fisher says he would look closely at the tax rate if re-elected, and make sure they are in line with the town’s growth.
“I might have missed something,” he said of not being on the board for two years. “I think we ought to stay on top of that.”
Peeler finds great satisfaction that a new medical center will be coming to Granite Quarry, and it will be located directly across from the town’s new drugstore.
“That’s what I was really working on and hoping Granite Quarry would get,” Peeler says.
She adds she would continue to work for good fire, police and maintenance departments and considers Granite Quarry’s tax rate to be reasonable at 40 cents per $100 valuation.
“I would not want to raise it now,” Peeler says. “Everyone’s strapped.”
Rhinier is a first-time candidate whose mantra is less government, more freedom.
“I think I bring a huge, different perspective to the board,” he says.
A firm believer in the Constitution, Rhinier warns against government on every level growing larger and becoming less responsive to the people.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he says of his decision to run for the town board. “… That’s the reason I threw my hat in on this one.”
At a recent town board meeting, Rhinier presented two resolutions for consideration: One asked the board to resolve, as representatives of the people, to defend the Second Amendment and Article I, Section 30, of the N.C. Constitution and not consent to “unconstitutional laws, executive orders or foreign/domestic tyranny.”
The other resolution was “to protect the privacy and security of law-abiding gun owners in North Carolina.”. It asked the board to call on the governor and General Assembly “to enact legislation protecting gun owners from undue and unwanted release of personal information by exempting said information from the public records laws.”
“Hopefully, they will do something with the resolutions I presented,” Rhinier says, adding he “hasn’t heard much of anything” from the board about them.
Wilhelm says he has always been interested in local politics, and he has the time now to work for the town. He pushes for expanded use of the town’s parks, and he supports the present board’s efforts overall.
“I think they run the town very well,” Wilhelm says, adding he hopes he would bring a fresh perspective to the board and perhaps represent more of the younger people moving into Granite Quarry.
Wilhelm says he would look at issues with long-term solutions in mind. “I want this to be a great place to live for my kids,” he adds.
Wilhelm has been among the more visible campaigners, going door to door since July. He also has planted a few campaign yard signs.
A production manager for SupplyOne, Kluttz, 48, has said he did not intend to seek re-election and is only interested as a write-in candidate because several residents asked him to reconsider.
Kluttz has served two terms on the board, and he says Granite Quarry is a much better place now than it was eight years ago. He says all departments are working well, and the town’s finances are solid.
No information was available on Philpot.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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